A ‘vision’ for Bath.

For the third time in recent years students from a renowned American university school of architecture  have come to Bath to learn their trade and come up with their own ideas for improving the fabric of our World Heritage city.

The 'proposed' redevelopment of the river-facing side of Manvers Street

The ‘proposed’ redevelopment of the river-facing side of Manvers Street

They are graduate first year students from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana and attend the only school of architecture in the States which concentrates on classical and traditional architecture.

Bath is an obvious attraction and ticks all the boxes in terms of scale, sustainable planning, balance between public and private spaces, consistency and being easy to get around on foot!

Opening up a riverside presence!

Opening up a riverside presence!

In past years other students from the University have come up with hypothetical schemes for the Western Riverside and the Kingsmead/Green Park Station area, but this year they have looked at improving things on the river-facing side of Manvers Street.

Professor Richard Economakis of the University of Notre Dame

Professor Richard Economakis of the University of Notre Dame

Professor Richard Economakis from the University of Notre Dame told an audience of invited guests at the Bath Royal Scientific and Literary Institute that – as Bath Spa Station was still a major starting point for many visitors to the city – Manvers Street was the first thoroughfare they saw and it was all about ‘first impressions.’

He thought the area ‘incomplete’ and ‘unfortunate’ and – having reminded us all of the grand schemes Georgian architect John Wood the Elder had for that area in creating a Royal Forum – unveiled a proposed scheme – on a much more modest scale – that would ‘stitch the whole fabric back together again.’

It is of course all hypothetical but the students still tackled issues that will have to be addressed for real at some point. It is possible buildings like the Police Station and Post Office complex will be relocated elsewhere at some point in the future. This will open up areas for re-development.

The car park in front of St John's hidden by a landscaped park.

The car park in front of St John’s hidden by a landscaped park.

The students from Notre Dame showed how this was a ‘perfect site to address the river issue and engage more with it’ and saw riverside walks and the creation of a clear edge to the Avon with terraced houses, hotels and cafes. They wanted to create a ‘necklace of public spaces’ leading from the rail station through the riverside area and into the city.

They pointed out that St John’s Roman Catholic Church looked out on a sunken car park and suggested a simple solution. Keep the car park but turn the top into a landscaped park.

An ornate gateway leads from Bath Spa station into the new scheme.

An ornate gateway leads from Bath Spa station into the new scheme.

They suggested an ornate gateway to the new development at roughly the same point a pedestrian footbridge originally took rail passengers across the road from the station directly into the Royal Hotel. There was even room for creating a new Civic Hall.

Hopefully l wasn’t the only person taking notes. Amongst the guests – as the leader of B&NES Cllr Paul Crossley pointed out – were representatives from Bath Preservation Trust and Bath Heritage Watchdog.

However l would like to think those who officially help shape Bath’s planning future might also take on board suggestions from a group of talented visiting youngsters who seem to be able to come up with ideas for the future that still have a worthy classical edge.

Leader of B&NES Cllr Paul Crossley addressing the presentation.

The Chairman of B&NES Cllr Neil Butters addressing the presentation.

It was good to see curves and circles and squares – instead of the straight sided  blocks that are going up in this city for real!

Introducing the presentation Cllr Crossley explained: ‘ We can’t guarantee any of it would be developed but it is important we explore ideas.’

The Virtual Museum of Bath wants to see more exploring and much more active public debate.

We shall remember them.

We shall remember them.

The 4th of August 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War and – with that in mind – the Heritage Lottery Fund is giving details of how groups, communities and organisations can apply for funding to mark the Centenary.

I quote from their website: ‘As we approach this important Centenary, people of all ages throughout the United Kingdom will be reflecting on the events of the First World War, the experiences of men and women here and overseas, and how the war has shaped the last 100 years.

P1050558Heritage Lottery Fund can provide funding to help groups, communities and organisations mark the Centenary by exploring, conserving and sharing the heritage of the First World War, from memorials, buildings and sites, to photographs, letters and literature. Find out more about the grants we offer from £3,000 – £10,000£10,000 – £100,000 and £100,000 upwards.

The heritage of the First World War includes anything relating to the First World War that we value and want to pass on to future generations – seeexamples of the heritage your project might explore.

Since April 2010, we have awarded over £12million to projects which explore the heritage of the First World War and are pleased to be working with Government on the UK-wide Centenary programme.’

The Heritage Lottery Fund can be found on www.hlf.org.uk/

At your convenience?

At your convenience?

The closure of public toilets in Weston, Larkhall, Combe Down, Twerton and Peasedown St John are to be brought forward to this August, according to an announcement from Bath and North East Somerset Council.

The news has sparked anger from Conservative councillors, who have accused the Liberal Democrat-run authority of going back on a promise to keep the toilets open until next year whilst alternative provision is sought.

Not everyone is too happy about this closure notice outside the Larkhall loos!

Not everyone is too happy about this closure notice outside the Larkhall loos!

The Council has notified local councillors that notices will be put up on the toilets B&NES plans to close thirteen of its public toilets in total.  However, the closures were not expected to begin until 2014, which is when the savings anticipated from the closures were programmed to materialise in the Council budget.

Larkhall's  public conveniences

Larkhall’s public conveniences

Whatever the justification behind the closures, l find the whole business rather ironic – coming as it does from an Authority destined to see a rise in the number of people who might be said to benefit most from such public provision.

The Office for National Statistics forecasts a 37 per cent rise in the number of over-65s from 31,600 to 43,200 by the end of the next decade. While a 67 per cent hike in the number of over-85s – from 4,900 to 8,200 – is expected during the same period.

Lord Filkin, chairman of the House of Lords Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change was quoted as saying: ‘As a country we are not ready for the rapid ageing of our population.”

Meanwhile, a government spokesman was also quoted as saying: ‘ It is essential that we reform our public services so they can cater for changing demand and are sustainable in the longer term.’

Try telling that to an elderly person searching for a loo! Our Victorian forefathers were so proud of their municipal services including such ‘mod cons’ as public toilets. We squander our heritage for short-term convenience.

One of Larkhall's local cafes.

One of Larkhall’s local cafes.

P>S> I suppose Larkhall’s cafes will benefit from the closure of the local loos. Tea and pee l think they call it?!

P>P>S>  Ironic that the district has just got a library. That which the Lord giveth…. etc, etc.IMG_3573

Keynsham treasures see the light – briefly!

Keynsham treasures see the light – briefly!

The 'museum store' is next to where you drive your garden waste and household rubbish in Pixash Lane.

The ‘museum store’ is next to where you drive your garden waste and household rubbish in Pixash Lane.

Next door to the Recycling Centre in Pixash Lane – where  the A4 through Saltford reaches its border with Keynsham – is an old printing factory which has been called into service to help B&NES out with a problem.

Here's where you go in!

Here’s where you go in!

It’s become the temporary  repository for the Roman and Mediaeval treasures that used to be stored in two basement rooms beneath Keynsham’s old town hall.

A well-attended viewing too!

A well-attended viewing too!

They include objects from Keynsham Abbey – excavated in the 1960’s prior to the building of the Keynsham by-pass which subsequently ran through it – and Romano-British material from the Cadbury’s Somerdale Museum , which closed in the 1980’s, and from a larger villa discovered during grave digging in the town’s public cemetery.

Elsewhere in the Virtual Museum archives you will find stories about Romano-British villas excavated in the area and the need – according to the Director of this Cyber Museum – for a proper Keynsham Institution to house all the heritage that so rightly belongs to this ancient market town.

The Pixash Lane store was briefly opened to the public today (Saturday, May 25th) and was quite busy during the time l was there taking photographs. Apparently the Keynsham Voice – a  local and very informative magazine – had run a story about the event.

Carved head from Keynsham Abbey Chapter House.

Carved head from Keynsham Abbey Chapter House.

According to the ‘blurb’ on display at the temporary stores, Bath and North East Somerset’s Roman Baths Museum is recognised by English Heritage as the repository of archaeological material for the whole of the authority district.

The ‘collections’ are looked after by a small team of professionals with a background in archaeology .

With the demolition of the old town hall – prior to redevelopment – the contents of those two basement rooms were moved to this empty factory store.

I quote from one of the display boards: ‘ Having worked with local people, particularly the Keynsham Heritage Trust, to explore ways to display and interpret these exciting finds, we are now pleased to be working with the Council’s Major Projects Team to put displays in the new Community Centre.

This will be built as part of the new development on the site of the old Town Hall, and is due to open in 2014.

Another Abbey relic.

Another Abbey relic.

Objects that are not displayed in the Centre will be available for people to see in an accessible store and at occasional events in and around Keynsham.’

Some of the fabulous mosaics on display.

Some of the fabulous mosaics on display.

On display today were objects from the two Roman villas discovered in the Keynsham area. A smaller one on the Somerdale factory site – which was partially reconstructed just inside the gates of the main factory entrance – and the larger – mosaic rich – Roman House excavated in  1922 in a corner of the town’s new public cemetery.

The Romano-British stone coffins

The Romano-British stone coffins

Two large stone coffins with lead linings were also found on the Somerdale site and are also stored in Pixash Lane – along with a 2nd century pedestal base for a statue, whose inscription dates it to AD 155.

There is evidence – amongst the finds – for a Roman temple in the area.

The inscribed pedestal base.

The inscribed pedestal base.

The Virtual Museum has already covered the discovery of the lost Roman town of Trajectus lying under the playing fields at Somerdale. Ground radar located a circular structure amongst many buildings outlined. This could be the temple. There are no plans to excavate the site.

It is understood some of the mosaics on display today will be set in the floor on the new Community Centre – under  transparent protective covers – and other objects displayed in sealed cases.

Remains from Keynsham’s remarkable Abbey, which dates from around 1170 and survived until 1539, are also on display in the temporary store.

Samson and the lion on a decorated ceiling boss from Keynsham Abbey.

Samson and the lion on a decorated ceiling boss from Keynsham Abbey.

They include some of the most beautiful carved ceiling bosses l have ever seen at such close quarters and an exquisite collection of decorated floor tiles with floral and animal designs.

Medieval decorated floor tiles from Keynsham Abbey.

Mediavel decorated floor tiles from Keynsham Abbey.

The next opportunity people will have of seeing these treasures will be during the Heritage Days this coming autumn.

There is also a collection of semi-carved objects from the Combe Down Bath stone mines.

P1050630 Examples of stonemasons working on site and discarding carvings that were declared faulty before being transported out to the vast Georgian building sites of the city.

They obviously make good door stops!

Door stop?!

Door stop?!

Hopefully – at some point in the future – this amazing collection can form part of a real Keynsham Museum and also contribute to what still remains a distant dream and that is a physical Museum of Bath – set in stone!

Community Alphabet Unveiled!

Community Alphabet Unveiled!

 

Students from Bath Spa University and The Museum of Bath at Work have worked with residents of Weston, in Bath to create a pictorial alphabet featuring all the locally distinctive features of their village, past and present. The alphabet of images includes historically important local figures, famous buildings and the ordinary,work-a-day features of this interesting Bath suburb – all of which have been suggested by local people.

On Saturday June 1st the finished alphabet of twenty six images will be unveiled at the Moravian Church in Weston at 12 noon. On that afternoon there will also be refreshments, a children’s drawing competition, a display by children at Weston All Saints School and presentations by Director of the Museum of Bath at Work – Stuart Burroughs and from students and staff from Bath Spa University.

All are welcome to this community event and admission is free.

Director Stuart Burroughs who had conceived the projects said ‘We have for a long time sought to involve local people in the creation of exhibitions with a focus on the areas in which they live. The idea of the alphabet – encouraging local people to suggest what matters most to them in their area- seemed an appropriate instrument to do this. We have been delighted by the response- and the ingenuity-of the suggestions for this pictorial alphabet. I was afraid suggestions for the letters X, Y, and Z might be absent but there is a complete ABC!’

For more details about the exhibition or the project please contact Stuart Burroughs at mobaw@hotmail.com or 01225 318348 at the Museum of Bath at Work.

A flood of memories

A flood of memories

Putting Bath‘s three thermal springs to one side, the main water feature in this city is the river that runs through it. Once the Avon played a pivotal role in supplying the energy required for local industry and  it also served as a waterway to transport materials and produce in and out of this bustling community at one end of the Cotswold Hills.

The Avon flooding its water meadows

The Avon flooding its water meadows

It’s a river that behaves like any other river. It tends to flood. Something that happened  more frequently as the area to the west of Bath became industrialised and the Avon’s water meadows – its natural overflow system – was built over.

Unable to release its swollen waters as nature intended the river poured instead through streets, factories and houses.

One of the worst floods in living memory occurred in 1960 when swans were able to glide up Southgate Street towards the city centre. It was also the final nail in the coffin of Bath’s Old Bridge which was fatally damaged and replaced by the present Churchill Bridge.

A radical programme was also brought in to rebuild and reshape the weir by Pulteney Bridge to increase river flow and also dredge and insert sheet piling walls along much of the central river bank to increase the volume of flood water the Avon could carry within its natural course.

The path under the Halfpenny Bridge

The path under the Halfpenny Bridge

One more great flood was to come in 1968 and you can see to what height the river rose that year by walking or cycling along the path which runs beside the Avon and under the Halfpenny pedestrian bridge – linking Widcombe and the city centre – which is currently being refurbished.IMG_3539

On the bank-side wall is recorded the dates and levels of floodwater levels going way back into the 19th century and 1968 is duly recorded too.

Flood levels recorded on the stone

Flood levels recorded on the stone

Our attention is being turned towards the River Avon again – but this time not only to try and keep flood waters under control.

Bath is being encouraged to see the river as a social and economic asset and to embrace and regenerate all of the environment it passes through.

More flood levels recorded

More flood levels recorded

A picture of Pulteney Bridge and – in the hoped-for summer – its sparkling weir, has normally been the only time anyone actually looks at the Avon. It is time to look again.

Reflecting on its future?

The image is of Britain’s first open-air lido and a Georgian one to boot! It’s Cleveland Pools – opened in Bath in 1815 – within a city famous for all its waters. Will this particular piece of living, crumbling history be saved for the future?  Or be lost to the past? The Virtual Museum hopes to bring you more on the subject – soon.